How to Write Compelling Dialogue


Creating lines for characters to speak, especially characters far removed from the writer’s own personality, beliefs and situation, is both a liberating and challenging key part of drama and prose fiction writing.

You can engage in conversations, deliver opinions and create speeches that you would never express in reality, but what writing techniques do you use to ensure that what your characters say is convincing and compelling? What opportunities are gained by being free of any authorial voice? How do you ensure you control the intended message to the reader or audience when you are speaking through a character driven by their own motives and inner life?

This intensive creative writing day school offers a range of activities: critical analysis of extracts, planning and writing dialogue-driven short scenes for script and prose fiction, etc. to explore the key skills and techniques used by scriptwriters and novelists to create dialogue in different genres. We will look not just at what characters say but at the motives and subtext that must
drive and focus every line they speak; and at the dynamics that develop between characters placed into a scene or situation in a plot.  

The day will be a mix of taught input, solo and small group writing and devising activities; (optional) sharing and discussion. We will analyse and discuss passages of effective dialogue from contemporary screen and stage productions, and from novels that rely on what characters say to deliver their story.

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 14 February 2024.

Programme details

Registration at Rewley House reception 

What motivates a character? What do they want?

Tea/coffee break

Knowing your characters and how they will react in situations in the plot

Lunch break

Style versus ‘natural speech’: recognising the purpose of every line

Tea/coffee break

Delivering key plot information and development of character through dialogue, and associated action

End of day



Description Costs
Course Fee (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Baguette Lunch £6.50
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Shaun McCarthy

Shaun McCarthy has had over a dozen stage plays professionally produced and a range of radio dramas broadcast. His adaptations include JM Synge’s ‘The Aran Islands’ (BBC R4 Classic Serial), a stage version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ that was a critique of David Cameron’s ‘big society’ and had a happy, unexpected ending; and a re-set of Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’ to Oxford 1963. Shaun teaches a range of creative writing courses for OUDCE, runs Hooligan Theatre Productions to develop his new plays and co-runs the writing events and residential writers’ retreats company ‘Stage and Page' in the UK and Italy.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form. 


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.